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A Welcome Restriction on the Jurisdiction to Issue Community Protection Notices? by Emma Downing

Mon 11th May 2020

Within the Youth Court the principles of parental engagement, involvement and where necessary responsibility are all well-established.

For example, unless the Court considers it unreasonable to do so, it must insist on the attendance of the parent or guardian of a child under the age of 16 years. Further, the provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, s.8 to s.10 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, s.19 to s.28 permit a Court to make a parenting order in relation to their child’s behaviour if it is satisfied that such an order would be desirable in the interests of preventing certain anti-social behaviour by their child. If, while a parenting order is in force, the parent without reasonable excuse fails to comply with any requirement, he is liable to a financial penalty. In addition, if a parent fails without justification to ensure that their child attends regularly at school, they commit an offence contrary to the Education Act 1996, s.444(1A) which has a maximum sentence of three months’ imprisonment.

 

But is there power to issue a community protection notice against a parent concerning the conduct of their child?

A community protection notice is designed to prevent unreasonable behaviour that is having a negative impact on the local community’s quality of life. An authorised person (most often a local authority) may only issue a community protection notice if it is satisfied that the conduct of the individual is having a detrimental effect of a persistent or continuing nature on the quality of life of those in the locality and the conduct is unreasonable (Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, s.43(1)). Although a community protection notice is a civil order, non-compliance is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum fine of £2,500.00 in the case of an individual.

In the case of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council -v- Sanderson [2020] EWHC 962 the Queen’s Bench Division dealt with an appeal by way of case stated against a decision by the Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court to allow an appeal by Caroline Sanderson (hereinafter ‘the Respondent’) against a community protection notice issued to her by the Appellant in respect of the behaviour of her son.

The Respondent had been issued with a community protection notice by the Appellant at a time when her son was nearly 15 years of age. The community protection notice followed the service of a written community protection warning on the Respondent which included a schedule of anti-social behaviour attributed to her son, including fighting, assaulting another schoolboy, setting fire to a public bench and refusing to leave a shop when instructed to do so.

The Respondent appealed to the Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court against the making of the community protection notice pursuant to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, s.46 on the basis that it had been issued to the wrong person. The Justices allowed the appeal on the basis that the Appellant had no power to issue a community protection notice in the name of the Respondent in respect of the conduct of her son.

In dismissing the appeal, the Queen’s Bench Division concluded that the Justices had been correct because the legislation did not permit community protection notices to be issued in the name of an individual (parent) concerning the conduct of a different individual (their child).

Whilst the Home Office’s explanatory notes to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 set out Parliament’s aim of focusing the response to anti-social behaviour on the needs of victims, there was nothing anywhere to suggest that its purpose was to enforce control over anti-social behaviour committed by another, irrespective of whether the person with responsibility is a parent or someone else, such as a school teacher or even the local authority itself if the child committing the anti-social acts was a “looked after” child (Children Act 1989, s.20).

In conclusion, the Queen’s Bench Division held that Parliament had chosen not to attribute the anti-social behaviour of one person to another even if that other person may have some power to control them. If Parliament had intended to enable a local authority to serve a community protection notice on a parent to require them to control the anti-social behaviour of a child and to face criminal penalty if they failed to do so, it could and would have made that clear.

Emma Downing

 

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